Thursday, July 27, 2017
When the whistle blows, it will be time to wet your whistle at a new drinking establishment coming to downtown Youngstown.
Work has just begun on the Whistle and Keg, which will be located on the corner of West Federal and Phelps streets, in the space formerly occupied by Friends Specialty coffee shop.
The owners – brothers Joseph and Michael Thomas of Canfield – have acquired an original whistle from the long-gone Youngstown Sheet and Tube mill. They plan to mount it outside and blow it at 5 p.m. every day. It will be a way to pay homage to the city’s industrial past, when the end of the shift at the mill was often followed by a cold one at the nearest watering hole.
The whistle will be a unique addition to the nightlife district. The bar will open in late August or September.
The Thomas brothers are local businessmen who recently returned to Canfield – Joseph from Columbus and Michael from Cleveland.
“We’re optimistic about downtown, with the new amphitheater and hotel coming in, and Covelli Centre and Youngstown State University,” said Joseph Thomas. “Our business model will fit well downtown. You can stop in before or after an event, and you can also leave when you are ready.”
To understand what Joseph means by that last comment, you have to understand how the Whistle and Keg will work.
Its self-service concept is new to the area.
The new spot will offer 44 craft beers (it will not brew its own beer). Each person who enters will check in with an identification card and credit card, to start a tab. In exchange, they will get a wristband with an embedded chip.
A wall of taps will be located on the upper level at the rear of the long and narrow room. Patrons will scan their wristband on a pad in front of each tap and pour their own beer (a computer will keep track of how much they pour to determine the price). They can then find a spot in the main room, which will have high-top tables and couches and televisions.
This system means you won’t have to wait for service, or your check, when the place is crowded and you are trying to get to a show at Covelli or Powers.
A limited food menu also will be offered.
While the concept exists in other parts of the United States, the Whistle and Keg will be the first place in Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania to use it, said Joseph.
The establishment will be open seven days a week – until 2 a.m. on weekends.
One thing it won’t have is loud music. “It will be a place for conversation,” said Joseph. “It will be comfortable.”
The room already has an industrial look, with an arch of faux steel beams across the ceiling, which will remain. It will be completed with new decor that will include reclaimed wood and locally made works of art.
Before the Whistle and Keg opens, another downtown craft-beer drinking establishment will reopen.
The Rust Belt Tap House on West Commerce Street has been closed for a few weeks as it undergoes changes. Founder and co-owner Ken Blair said the bar – which is also known as a good spot for conversation – will reopen as early as next week with a new ownership team.